The 2014 offseason is now in full swing, and the attention of each NFL franchise has turned to the NFL draft. Building a solid core is an absolute must for any team that plans on remaining dominant for an extended period of time. Teams with early selections look to get back on track, and teams with later selections will attempt to make a push for a Super Bowl berth.
It is still early in the offseason, and many teams will fill needs through free agency. Also, draft prospects will continue to rise and fall on big boards as the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine and pro days have yet to take place.
That being said, this is how the first round of the draft could possibly play out at this point in the year.
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Now that the Texans have a new head coach in Bill O'Brien, they will look to rebuild around an already solid core. That rebuilding process must start with a franchise quarterback. Last season, Matt Schaub and Case Keenum proved they are not the answers for this team going forward.
Enter Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater may be the most NFL-ready quarterback prospect in this year's draft. He has all of the intangibles to come in and start right away on the professional level. There is no reason for Houston to pass up on the most advanced quarterback in the 2014 draft.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Rams may look to trade out of this pick. However, without any trades taking place in this mock draft, they will remain here. If they choose to do so, selecting Matthews—the best offensive tackle in this year's draft class—would be the best pick.
St. Louis began to show a great amount of improvement over the second half of the 2013-14 season. The Rams have many talented playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, including wide receiver Tavon Austin and running back Zac Stacy.
By bringing in an elite offensive tackle, the Rams can provide better protection for whoever is under center next season, which will help out with ball distribution to a young, talented group of weapons.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
There is a chance that the Jaguars could pull the trigger on Jadeveon Clowney here; however, it seems impossible to think that they would be content with their terrible quarterback situation for another season.
Bortles is one of the most talented quarterbacks in this year's draft. He churned out a tremendous junior season, capping it off with a dazzling performance in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Bortles showed his ability to be a competent passer and showcased his athleticism when asked to run.
He is exactly the kind of quarterback who can finally get this offense back on track.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
This is beginning to become a very popular pick for Cleveland. Although Manziel may not be the safest pick at this point in the draft, he certainly fills a huge need for the Browns. Cleveland is in desperate need of a dual-threat quarterback, as they have found trouble against the AFC North's pass-rushing specialists.
Manziel has a strong enough arm to distribute the ball to the likes of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron and can also rely on his speed and athleticism to get himself out of trouble when under duress in the pocket.
In January, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reported that Cleveland was showing interest in Manziel:
Team officials realizes it may be a longshot to land Malzahn, who nearly won a national title at Auburn and is very happy there, but his offensive innovation and the style of offense he runs is very much in line with what the team would like to put in place (the Browns are also very high on quarterback Johnny Manziel, sources said, who would be a perfect fit in a Malzahn offense).
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Raiders are another team that has a need at the quarterback position. However, with Matt McGloin playing fairly well during the 2013-14 season, the team may be inclined to give him another chance. If they do so, they must begin to surround him with more weapons.
This is where Watkins comes in. The most explosive wide receiver in this year's draft class, Watkins will bolster a Raiders wide receiver corps that is highly inexperienced.
If the Raiders are to contend with the high-octane offenses of the AFC West, grabbing a playmaker like Watkins is an absolute necessity.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
This is the perfect scenario for the Falcons. The teams ahead of them in the 2014 draft have many offensive needs which makes Clowney falling to No. 6 overall a real possibility. Atlanta struggled on the defensive line last season, finishing in the bottom third of the league against the run and in sacks.
Clowney will be able to bolster the team in both of these departments immediately. One of the strongest athletes in this year's draft, Clowney will be an immediate starter and make an immediate impact.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Now that Lovie Smith is the new head coach of the Buccaneers, expect him to use a similar formula that he used in Chicago—stock up on athletic, pass-rushing linebackers. Mack fits the bill nicely. One of the most promising prospects in the 2014 draft, Mack has an elite speed and strength combination that is sure to make him a star in the NFL.
Mack is a do-it-all linebacker, as he frequently used his speed to rush the passer, pursue a ball-carrier or drop back in coverage. He will certainly be a welcomed addition to Tampa Bay's defense.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Vikings would love to grab a top-tier quarterback here; however, with only Derek Carr—a quarterback who can easily drop into the second round—left on the board, they will fill another need rather than reaching. The Vikings will look to revamp their pass rush over the offseason as Jared Allen is set to become a free agent.
Barr has shown the ability to be effective as an outside pass-rushing linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or put his hand on the ground as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. His versatility will fill a big need and help alleviate the loss of the team's best pass-rusher.
9. Buffalo Bills: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Bills already have a great front seven, but they can still improve by selecting another dominant linebacker to pair with Kiko Alonso. Buffalo is still young on both sides of the ball, and they will continue to build upon a young, athletic team.
Mosley is one of the most NFL-ready linebackers in this year's draft class. Like Alonso, he will be able to make an impact immediately on the Bills defense. His speed, strength and vision will help the Bills contain the improving offenses of the AFC East.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Detroit has a huge need at the cornerback position. The Lions have the unfortunate position of being in the pass-happy NFC North and need to slow down the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler. Dennard is the answer.
Making a living as a physical shutdown corner at Michigan State, Dennard has the ability to play press-man coverage without safety help over the top. With Dennard being able to lock down one side of the field on his own, his presence will improve the rest of the secondary as well.
11. Tennessee Titans: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Titans already have a young, fast defense and can improve it further by selecting a dominant pass-rusher. Ealy is one of the safer picks at this point in the draft, as he has been very consistent throughout his tenure at Missouri.
His athleticism and quick initial burst off the snap makes him a formidable opponent for any of the NFL's offensive tackles. At 6'5" and 275 pounds, Ealy will contribute immediately and help the Titans move up the ranks of the AFC South.
12. New York Giants: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Last season, the Giants saw a dramatic fall from grace on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Eli Manning constantly struggled throughout the duration of the season, and one huge factor to that was the play of the offensive line.
Robinson is a steal at No. 12 overall due to his NFL-ready technique. He will be able to step in and provide the protection that Manning desperately needs to get this offense back on track.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Now that the Rams have taken care of their need on the offensive line, it's time for the team to continue to build up its solid core of weapons. St. Louis already has one very talented receiver in Tavon Austin; however, he is more of a slot receiver and not a true outside threat.
Evans, at 6'5" and 225 pounds has the ability to become a true No. 1 target on this offense. Pairing Evans with Austin makes the receiver position in St. Louis a strong point rather than a hindrance. These players will be able to feed off each other and share the pressure applied by opposing defenses.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
It's no secret that the Bears were just awful against the run during the 2013-14 season. They finished dead last in the NFL against the run, allowing an average of 161.4 rush yards per game. Bolstering the interior of their defensive line should be priority No. 1 for this team.
Donald has a great frame for a defensive tackle. At 6'0" and 284 pounds, he is not the biggest prospect at his position, but his athleticism and quick feet make him one of the most polished. He has a huge motor, and it is almost impossible to contain him for an entire 60 minutes.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Pittsburgh was surprisingly pedestrian against the run over the 2013-14 season. Ranking just 21st in the league, the Steelers allowed an average of 115.6 yards per game on the ground. This is not at all what is generally expected from a Steelers defense.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will certainly be looking for an upgrade at the heart of the defensive line. Nix will fit his scheme perfectly. He is a huge defensive tackle at 6'2" and 345 pounds and can bully his way against better interior offensive linemen. Nix will help Pittsburgh get its defense back on track.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Ravens are in serious need of another wide receiver. After letting Anquan Boldin go in a trade to the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore's offense has struggled mightily. Quarterback Joe Flacco has surely missed his weapons, as his passer rating dropped from 87.7 in 2012 to just 73.1 in 2013.
Lee is a dynamic receiver who requires plenty of attention from opposing defenses. He will be a great complement to the speedy Torrey Smith and give Flacco the opportunity to recreate the success that he had during the Ravens' Super Bowl run two years ago.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
The Cowboys had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season. They have plenty of holes that must be filled on that side of the ball; however, none more important than in their secondary that finished the season ranked 30th in the league.
Clinton-Dix is a sure-tackler and flourishes in coverage. He has a keen ability to sit back and read a quarterback's eyes, allowing him to make a fast break on the ball. His skill set is exactly what the Cowboys need to help them get back into the postseason.
18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Jets are in serious need of offensive weapons. No matter who is under center to start the 2014 season, they will certainly need plenty of help. Wide receiver would be the ultimate choice here; although, the remaining candidates could be considered a reach.
New York should go with the best playmaker available here, which would be Ebron. He is a 6'4", 245-pound target who is a crisp route-runner, has great hands and makes a reliable target—especially in the red zone. His presence on the Jets offense will be an immediate improvement.
19. Miami Dolphins: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Miami has an unusual situation along the offensive line. In the aftermath of the situation involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, the Dolphins find themselves with a big need at the offensive tackle position.
Lewan may not be a fundamentally sound prospect, but he has a natural strength which will allow him to make a quick impact. Once he is able to work with an NFL position coach to improve his technique, he could easily turn into one of the league's dominant offensive tackles.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Cardinals were one of the league's most surprising teams last season. A great second half of the year allowed the team to finish with a 10-6 record. Unfortunately, they missed out on the playoffs, but with a little help, they could easily find the postseason in 2014.
Some added protection for quarterback Carson Palmer is a necessity here. Bringing in a technically sound left tackle like Kouandjio gives this offense an immediate upgrade. With so many pure pass-rushers in the NFC West, this selection makes perfect sense for an already solid team.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Despite the loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a good chunk of the 2013-14 season, the Packers were still able to squeak into the playoffs. With an already sound offense, the Packers need to focus their attention on the defensive side of the ball early in the draft.
The secondary was a big concern for Green Bay last season and adding a hard-hitting safety like Pryor would do wonders. Not only is Pryor known for his tackling ability, but he also excels in coverage due to his ability to play center field or cover in the slot.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Eagles could use another solid coverage corner in their secondary that gave up some big games to opposing quarterbacks last season. Gilbert is a versatile corner who can play both outside and in the slot. He has tremendous coverage skills, as he has the speed to shadow a receiver, locate the ball and make a play.
Chip Kelly's offense is one of the most high-octane units in the NFL. Now, for Philadelphia to take the next step and go deeper into the playoffs, it's time to build an equally formidable defense.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Kansas City has been without viable receiving threats for quite some time. Outside of running backs who can catch out of the backfield, Dwayne Bowe has been the only reliable target. With quarterback Alex Smith in the fold, it's finally time for the Chiefs to snatch up more weapons.
Benjamin fits the mold perfectly for Kansas City. At 6'5" and 235 pounds, he has the build of a tight end but the speed of a wide receiver. Benjamin will be able to take a good amount of pressure off Bowe and should turn out to be a very solid complement.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Bengals have a deep roster; however, they must begin to prepare for the future. At the cornerback position, Cincinnati has an aging Terence Newman, an oft-injured Leon Hall, an unpredictable Adam Jones and an unproven Dre Kirkpatrick.
Needless to say, corner should be a top priority for the team this year. Verrett has good speed and has a solid decision-making ability that allows him to decide whether or not to jump a route. He is also tough and strong enough to excel at the line of scrimmage in run support.
25. San Diego Chargers: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Last year, the Chargers were able to bolster the interior of their linebacker corps with Manti Te'o. This year, the focus should be on the outside. The team could use a difference-maker on the edge, and that is exactly what Shazier can be for them.
Shazier is a sure-tackler and can make plays against speedy opponents in space. He has a high motor and can get after ball-carriers or rush the passer with a good amount of efficiency.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The Browns have already addressed their quarterback situation, and now, with their second pick in the first round, they must provide him with an additional weapon. Josh Gordon has proven to be an elite No. 1 wide receiver, and now he needs someone to take a bit of the pressure off of him.
Beckham is a smaller receiver; however, he is a reliable route-runner with good hands and can flourish in a complementary role. He will be able to use his speed for short crossing and slant routes, allowing Gordon to open things up over the top.
27. New Orleans Saints: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan instilled a 3-4 defense in New Orleans that helped the defense become a viable unit. Even though the defense dramatically improved, there are still holes that must be filled. One of those voids is at the outside linebacker position.
Van Noy is not the fastest outside linebacker in this year's draft; however, he makes his presence felt by using his intelligence to dissect plays early and get into the right place at the right time. Once in position, he is a sure-tackler who can provide some stability to the Saints linebacker corps for years to come.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Panthers made leaps and bounds as a football team in 2013. They were able to improve in big ways on both sides of the ball. Now, with one of the best defensive units in the NFL, they must focus more on the offense.
Cam Newton has shown that he can be a franchise quarterback for the Panthers. However, it will be important to continue to provide him with weapons. Steve Smith is getting up there in age and will need to be replaced eventually.
Cooks, at 5'10" and 186 pounds, is a smaller speedy receiver—not much different than Smith. Cooks has a great burst, good body control and blazing straight-line speed. He can easily become the playmaker of the future for this offense.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Patriots have lost tight end Aaron Hernandez for good. Rob Gronkowski is still around, but his lingering injuries are a big concern. Also, it's never bad to surround quarterback Tom Brady with more weapons.
Amaro is a big, fast, versatile tight end who could come in and contribute immediately in New England's tight end-happy scheme. At 6'6" and 260 pounds, Amaro will be a big red-zone target for Brady and will help to keep the offense afloat, should Gronkowski continue to have injury issues.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
With all viable wide receivers off the board, the 49ers will look to fill another need here. Their front seven is one of the best in the NFL, and San Francisco could look to inject some youth in that unit early in the draft.
Hageman stands at 6'6" and weighs 311 pounds, making him a perfect size to fit the 49ers 3-4 scheme at either defensive tackle or defensive end. His size and strength combination makes him a force at any position on the defensive line. Drafting Hageman is one way to ensure the continued dominance of the 49ers defensive unit.
31. Denver Broncos: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Protecting Peyton Manning should be the top priority for the Broncos heading into the 2014 season. After suffering a rash of injuries along the offensive line last season, adding depth in that area becomes a big priority.
Martin has great fundamentals and solid technique. He would be able to contribute immediately, if necessary. He possesses the versatility to play tackle or guard, which will be a huge help to this team should they go through the same injury problems as they did in 2013.
32. Seattle Seahawks: David Yankey, OG, Stanford
Arguably the NFL's deepest team, any draft pick at 32 overall would make the rich even richer. If the Seahawks had one weakness over the 2013-14 season, it would be on the interior of the offensive line. Seattle must do everything in its power to protect quarterback Russell Wilson going forward.
Luckily, Yankey, the best offensive guard prospect in this year's draft, is available. He has the strength and athleticism to be a strong blocker for the run as well as in pass protection. He would be able to step in immediately and fill one of the few holes on this Super Bowl-winning team.
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